Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2007 Jul 15;110(2):420-31. [Link]

Garland LL, Rankin C, Gandara DR, Rivkin SE, Scott KM, Nagle RB, Klein-Szanto AJ, Testa JR, Altomare DA, Borden EC.

University of Arizona Cancer Center, Tucson, AZ, USA.


Purpose:Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) expresses high levels of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), and preclinical studies have identified antitumor activity of EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) in MPM. We conducted a phase II trial of the EGFR TKI erlotinib in previously untreated patients with MPM.

Patients and Methods: Patients with measurable and nonmeasurable disease were treated with erlotinib 150 mg/d on days 1 through 28 of each 28-day dosing cycle. Archived patient tumors were analyzed for immunohistochemical expression of EGFR, phospho-EGFR, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), phospho-extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), and phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) and phosphorylation of members of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/Akt signaling pathway.

Results: Sixty-three patients were treated on the study. EGFR was highly expressed in 75% of patient tumors, as was phospho-ERK (82%), phospho-Akt (84%), phospho-mammalian target of rapamycin (74%), and phospho-forkhead (74%). HER2 was rarely expressed, and loss of PTEN was rare. For 33 patients with measurable disease, there were no objective responses; 14 patients (42%) had stable disease, 15 patients (45%) had disease progression, and four patients had inadequate assessments to determine response. Toxicities were mainly constitutional (51%), dermatologic (82%), and GI (52%); there was one death on trial, which was related to dyspnea. Median overall survival time was 10 months; 1-year survival rate was 43%; and median progression-free survival time was 2 months.

Conclusion: Single-agent erlotinib was not effective in MPM, despite high expression of EGFR. Activation of the ERK and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/Akt downstream pathways are possible resistance mechanisms to EGFR TKI. The activated phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/Akt pathway is a potential therapeutic target for MPM.